Facebook recently made it easier to manage your privacy settings. These changes should help you understand how your data is being used and how to prevent it being used in the future. Ironically, Facebook hasn’t done a great job of telling you where to go to find all these settings.
What Prompted Facebook’s Privacy Changes?
In March 2018, it was revealed that a third-party app had accessed the data of millions of Facebook users without their express consent.
That information was then passed on to Cambridge Analytica, a data mining company hired by the Trump campaign in 2016, which uses psychographic profiles to target voters in elections.
Facebook addressed the scandal, with Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg listing the planned steps to address the issue. These include:
- Investigating all apps with “access to large amounts of information” with a plan to ban developers that “misused personally identifiable information.”
- Removing developer access to your data if you don’t use an app for over three months and restricting how much of your data developers can access at all.
- Making sure users understand how apps can access their data and making it clear how to revoke that access.
Was Your Data Shared With Cambridge Analytica?
If you or a friend of yours logged into the app, This Is Your Digital Life, some of your information was probably shared, and Facebook will let you know what that information may be.
So now that you know if your information was shared with Cambridge Analytica, you probably want to know what changes are coming to your privacy settings.
Simplified Facebook Mobile Settings Menu
If you use Facebook primarily on your phone, you’ll be happy to know that your settings will all be consolidated. Instead of settings “spread across nearly 20 different screens,” they will all be where they should be: in one place.
The screen on the left shows the old settings while the screen on the right shows the updated interface:
One thing Facebook hasn’t done is let people know when these new settings will roll out to all users.
Removed “Apps Others Use” Setting
When the Cambridge Analytica news first broke, many people realized for the first time that a setting existed that allowed developers to access some of your data if your friends have installed their apps.
That setting has been completely removed.
You can still change other privacy settings related to how third parties use your data.
New Facebook Privacy Shortcuts Menu
In addition to consolidated settings, Facebook has also revamped the privacy shortcuts in its mobile apps.
On your phone you can get to these new settings by doing the following: Go to the Settings tab (hamburger menu icon) > Settings & Privacy > Privacy Shortcuts.
Here you’ll find the following:
With Facebook’s Privacy Checkup, you can go through a short questionnaire that makes it easy to:
- Choose the default audience for your next post (Public, Friends, Friends with Exceptions, or Only Me)
- Understand and select who can see your profile information
- Understand and select which apps and websites are connected to your Facebook account.
You’ll find quick links for the following:
- Who can see your future posts
- Where to go to review posts you’ve been tagged in by friends.
- Where to go to decide who can send you friend requests.
- A link to your blocked contacts.
A new Privacy Basics menu divided into five sections aims to explain to users everything they need to know about Facebook’s security and privacy features.
In addition to explaining Facebook’s many features, where applicable, you’ll also find links at the end of each section taking you to the relevant settings for your account.
- How to create and delete posts, how your profile is viewed by other users, who can see your friends list, tagging, comments, your timeline, and more.
- How to deactivate or delete your account, create secure passwords, and set up two-factor authentication.
- How to control ads you see both on and off Facebook and how to change the ads you see.
Tap Privacy Basics > Menu to see the five sections.
You can also read Facebook’s data policy. This is pretty extensive, and you probably won’t want to wade through it, but it’s a good resource to start to understand how Facebook collects and uses your data, and how you can manage or delete it.
Accessing, Downloading, and Deleting Your Data
You’ve long been able to download your Facebook data, but soon you will have more control over what you can do with it.
How It Worked Before the Announcement
You can still access your data the old way. Go to Settings and click Download a copy of your Facebook data.
The Facebook download request can take a while depending on how often you use the social network. As someone who doesn’t use Facebook all that often, it took me about 10 minutes at most and was a 105MB file.
In addition to downloading your data, you can also view everything you’ve done on Facebook in your Activity Log. To get to this page click the arrow in the top right-hand corner of the page on Facebook and click Activity Log.
Here, you can filter your activity by everything from posts and photos to links you’ve saved and videos you’ve watched, and more. You can change the privacy settings for each post or item, hide it from your timeline, or delete it.
How to Access Your Data From Now On
Rather than have to download and wade through unwieldy documents, Facebook unveiled a new Access Your Information feature, which will also be rolling out to users, but it’s also unclear when that will actually happen.
From the screenshot Facebook shared, it’s clear that all the information you can download will also be accessible from one convenient page.
This will include all your interactions on Facebook: posts, photos, comments, groups, likes and reactions, friends, and much more.
Facebook says this new feature will also make it easier to download a secure copy of your data or move it to another service. It also should make it easier to delete anything from your timeline or profile.
Are These Facebook Privacy Changes Enough?
As more information surfaces, Facebook is still dealing with the fallout from the Cambridge Analytica scandal. And we have since discovered that Facebook is spying on your Messenger chats, which is the latest in a long line of Facebook security and privacy nightmares.
Mark Zuckerberg has since spent two days in Washington, D.C. facing questions from US lawmakers, as they press the social network on how to address the underlying problems.
Some of the questions asked by US senators demonstrated a key issue plaguing Facebook: many users simply don’t understand how their data is being used, and it’s also unclear what kind of company Facebook wants to be.
The question is whether the steps Facebook is taking to address people’s concerns is enough, and whether we’ll see a revival of calls for people to delete their Facebook accounts.